Undercover discrimination testing to be expanded in Brussels labour market

Undercover discrimination testing to be expanded in Brussels labour market
© Unia

The Brussels Government is expanding opportunities for practical tests against discrimination in the labour market. The procedure is being made easier because too few reports were coming in, De Tijd reports on Tuesday.

When Brussels approved practice tests in late 2017, both in the rental sector and in the labour market, it was a forerunner in Belgium.

Until now, the Regional Employment Inspectorate's (GWI) discrimination checks were done through mystery calls, where inspectors investigate whether employers respond to a discriminatory question from a customer.

Inspectors could also send fake job applications that differ only on a criterion that could lead to discrimination. But in practice, these practice tests turned out to be hardly used.

In the first three years that practice tests were possible, the inspectorate received 45 reports. The equal opportunities centre Unia already complained in a 2020 review that the procedure was "too laborious" and hampered effectiveness.

A simplified process

Labour Minister Bernard Clerfayt (Defi) wants to expand and simplify the tool. 'With labour shortages in numerous sectors, no one can afford this social waste,' he said. Clerfayt has a new ordinance ready, which has now been approved by the Brussels government at second reading.

Specifically, the new regulations mean that inspectors will no longer have to wait for a report before proceeding with an inspection. 'Sufficient suspicions' will suffice to justify an inspection. In addition, after approval from the labour auditor, they may also inspect sectors where the risk of discrimination is higher.

Inspectors are also allowed to go on site to check companies under an alias, which was not allowed before, and they cannot be criminally prosecuted for this. Clerfayt does not think this creates a risk of incitement. 'The guidelines are very clear,' says his spokeswoman.

Finally, from now on, not only Unia and the Institute for Gender Equality will pass on reports, but also the Brussels employment service Actiris, which receives more reports.

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The debate on practice testing is a lot harder in Flanders than in Brussels. The word has since become so controversial that Flanders now talks about correspondence tests. Flemish companies, like Brussels companies, can now receive mock job applications to check for discrimination. But Flanders does not use the data to sanction, but to collect data and draw up anti-discrimination plans in consultation with sectors.

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